William Cooke was born at Staveley but lived in Whittington for many years. He was a grocer and labourer at a stone quarry.

William married Hannah Mettam on October 28 1847, Hannah was the daughter of Thomas and Mary Mettam. (I have noticed whilst researching Whittington and the churchyard Mettam was a very well known family of many years in the Whittington area). When they married Williams occupation was labourer.

In 1851 the couple were living with Williams father, Richard Cooke, in Whittington. and William is now classed as a labourer and grocer.

By 1861 the couple six children, but sadly as was the case very often only three children were still living. They went on to have a further three children, all who sadly died in infancy.

William died on 7th May 1875 and is buried in Old Whittington churchyard.

Hannah’s story did not end there. I was intrigued when I came across this gravestone in Old Whittington churchyard.

The gravestone reads:

In Affectionate Remembrance of

Hannah the daughter of William and Hannah Cooke

who died December 9th 1954 aged 9 months

Also of Richard their son who died March 25th 1859

aged 3 years and 4 months

also of four children who died in infancy

Also the above William Cooke

who died May 7th 1875 aged 61 years

Also of Hannah wife of the above who died at East Maitland

New South Wales December 26th 1896 aged 71 years

Also of Thomas youngest son of the above who died at Newcastle

New South Wales June 16th 1910 aged 52 years

The four children who died in infancy were:

Mary born 1850 died 1850

William born 1862 died 1862

Eliza born 1865 died 1865

Annie born 1867 died 1867

Although not uncommon for children to die in infancy, it is still very sad to read and one cannot imagine what the loss was like for William and Hannah.

What was more intriguing was that Hannah died in New South Wales Australia along with her son Thomas.

William left a will leaving everything to his wife Hannah, this will was proved in 1879. Shortly after this advert appeared in the Derbyshire Times on 18th October 1879.

The items listed for sale would indicate that the Cooke family were fairly ‘well to do’. Presumably Mrs Cooke moved with her son Thomas to Australia not long after this sale took place.

It must have been quite a big step and a strenuous journey, and a big change from Old Whittington, Hannah must have been quite a brave lady!

What happened to the remaining two children of the Cooke family Henry and Jane I am not sure. I haven’t found a census record after 1871 for them so it is quite possible that Mrs Cooke took her family to Australia after her husband died.

Thomas married and had a family in Australia, perhaps a descendant may visit Old Whittington one day.

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